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Luxury small ship river cruises in Asia



Aug 2017


We had a fantastic trip from Siem Reap to Saigon. Not only interesting but also wonderful to visit local villages and get a glimpse of real life of Cambodian and Vietnamese people. We particularly liked that Pandaw shares the tourism wealth with these small communities.

Margaret Kay and Michael Smart on The Classic Mekong River Cruise

The ship was extremely comfortable and staff attentive and gorgeous. My only suggestion is that you provide a map showing the route of the cruise and the stops made. An espresso coffee machine would also be welcome!

Apr 2017


We have recently returned from an amazing holiday, the service we received was far and above what we expected. The cruise was excellent with staff who could not do enough for us, especially our purser Sokhom. We were very fortunate to also have on board Pandaw's executive chef so the food was an absolute treat, excellent cocktails at cocktail time and cabins were very comfortable, clean and airy.

Bill and Jean Adam on The Classic Mekong river cruise holiday.

We met lots of people and had enjoyable evenings on deck chatting with our new friends. The guides we had throughout our holiday were so good, so informative about their country and culture. We received a water blessing from the Buddhist monks - it was very moving and rather effective as the following morning the heavens opened! We left the boat to make our way to Seam Reap in a mighty thunderstorm but it all added to the fun of the holiday. Siem Reap was another wonderful experience - again with an excellent guide who was extremely knowledgeable and enjoyed taking photos of us!

Feb 2017


My girlfriend, Rosemary, and I would like to say how much we enjoyed our trip on the Laos Pandaw. The boat is lovely. Teak and brass finished with comfortable and very well appointed staterooms. The public areas are spacious and also very comfortable. The food was excellent. A very good variety of local dishes and more European fare. The journey, mostly in Laos, was through wonderful scenery. Stopped at a number of sites including waterfalls, caves and many villages. Several different activities too, including feeding bananas to elephants, giving alms to monks and launching Chinese lanterns. The crew were very friendly and helpful, nothing seemed too much trouble.

Laos River Cruise

Photo is with our Captain and his family in their village. Altogether a wonderful and relaxing holiday.

My thanks and congratulations to everyone involved.

Jul 2016


UPSTREAM ON THE RED RIVER - Always something to see and do, and so relaxing!

Pandaw's offer of 'no single supplement' on their Red River cruise, to areas of Vietnam I had never before visited, was irresistible to me. I usually travel with my husband, and felt a little wary of traveling alone for an extended period of time; this cruise seemed like a great way to try river cruising, with a company which gives a lot back to the communities it visits. Whilst we had made a number of visits to Asia over the years, we had never cruised there.

My early June departure put me right at the start of the wet season, but we were very lucky with the weather. It was very hot, but the few showers we had were at night, with the exception of one tropical downpour during an afternoon shore excursion. On that occasion the rain was a welcome relief from the heat, though that didn't stop the crew arriving to rescue us, armed with multiple large umbrellas.

Halong Bay and the Red River Cruise DancingPhotos courtesy of Lex Lees

Our ship, the RV Angkor Pandaw, was ideal for travelling the broad and sometimes shallow waterways. The teak cabins were comfortable and spotlessly clean, with plenty of storage. The individually controlled air conditioning coped well, even on days when the outside temperature approached 38 Celsius. Outdoor lounges in the centre and front of the upper deck provided comfortable areas for relaxing, socialising and watching the ever changing scenery. Halong Bay was quite stunningly beautiful, but even the more industrial and rural riverscapes later in the cruise provided plenty of interest, with a fascinating array of river craft of all shapes and sizes, and ever changing activities along the river. Pandaw are the only company cruising this route, and I realised we were a tourist attraction in our own right when I saw a truck driver on one of the bridges photograph us on his mobile phone as we passed underneath! As the days passed, the front of the ship became my favourite haunt when I wasn't on a shore excursion. There I sat in comfort, with my camera at the ready, watching the passing scenery, writing emails home, posting photos on Facebook, and of course indulging in regular cold drinks or coffee.

My fellow cruisers were a diverse group, from the USA, England, Germany, as well as fellow Australians. I enjoyed having company when I wanted it, and being free to relax in solitude if I chose. As I got to know my fellow travellers, I realised I was one of the few passengers who was a first timer with Pandaw. It says a lot for the quality and variety of the cruises Pandaw offers that so many passengers were on their second, third or fourth cruise with the company.

Perhaps Pandaw's greatest asset is its professional and multi national staff. Our young crew, mostly from Cambodia, were exceptional in their professionalism and friendliness. It is impossible to single any one crew member out. When cruising, they were quick to learn each passenger's food and seating preferences, and soon knew us all by name. The food was of course delicious, with a wide variety of Western, Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes, and a wonderful array of fresh fruit, seafood, and meats of all types. When we went on shore excursions, the crew made sure all of us were safe and comfortable, and looked out especially for any passengers who weren't so mobile. Out two local Vietnamese guides, Tuan and Vu, offered not only a wealth of local knowledge, but also shared with us some interesting stories about their own families and lives, which provided a real insight into Vietnamese life and customs. Like the crew, they were friendly and accessible, and always happy to answer questions or translate a question we might want to ask a local.

Our shore excursions were many and varied, and offered something for everyone. We were able to experience a real taste of local life, culture and crafts. It was especially important to me to know that Pandaw gives financial support to the communities we visited, and that visits by Pandaw are rotated throughout different households within a village, sharing any monetary benefit equitably. We were never pressured to give money or make purchases, nor did we feel like voyeurs.

Halong Bay and the Red River Cruise DancingPhotos courtesy of Lex Lees

Now back in the midst of a Sydney winter, I'm reminiscing fondly about my cruising days, and planning my next Pandaw itinerary. This time though, I won't get away without my husband, now that he's seen the photos and heard the stories!

Lex Lees
First time cruiser
Part time teacher
Full time traveler (I wish)

Mar 2016


My wife and I have recently enjoyed yet another set of adventures with Pandaw Cruises, in March 2016: a pre-cruise tour of Yunnan Province (LTC2), a Mekong China downstream cruise (CH-002), and a post-cruise tour of the Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand (LTTH1).

Firstly we want to congratulate your staff on surmounting a number of difficulties brought about by the low river level which prevented the RV Laos Pandaw vessel from travelling up to Jinghong. The arrangements made by Joost and staff to accommodate us in the Empark Grand Hotel, to organise excursions in and around Jinghong, and to secure vessels to transport us downstream to the Laos Pandaw, were remarkable and compensated for our disappointment in not joining the Laos Pandaw in Jinghong.

The pre-cruise tour of Yunnan Province beginning in Kunming and concluding with a flight from Lijiang was wonderful. Guides, drivers, busses, hotels, and itinerary were all excellent.

When we arrived in Jinghong we were surprised to find that we would be staying there for some time. We guessed that it was the low river level of the upper Mekong that was the problem. How we were to get to the RV Laos Pandaw was a mystery. Those in our party of 18 who were seasoned travellers with Pandaw accepted the situation and enjoyed our time in Jinghong, especially the spectacular cultural show at the theatre one night. We also enjoyed shopping at the night markets. You can imagine our delight when, on day 3 in Jinghong, Joost explained that he had arranged two boats to take us down-river from Jinghong to meet the RV Laos Pandaw the next day. That trip was fascinating, and a marvel of organisation. We suppose the hiring of these boats would have cost Pandaw considerable sums of money, but we would recommend these modes of transport be incorporated in future Upper Mekong cruises if similar river level problems beset the RV Laos Pandaw. The second vessel, equipped with furniture from the RV Laos Pandaw, plus a Pandaw cook, whilst not a luxury craft, provided us with an adventure we won't easily forget. And we saw all the river we were supposed to see in the original itinerary.

Once aboard the Laos Pandaw we all enjoyed the usual attention to our needs which your Company provides, and had a lovely 4 days on the river, with interesting excursions.

Barbara and I much appreciated the efforts of the cruise director on RV Laos Pandaw to rescue our photographs by means of his computer and his purchase of a memory stick for us.

The post-cruise tour of the HillTribes of northern Thailand with "Nun" as our guide was great. Some adventures such as the bamboo rafting on the Kok River, and the following elephant safari, would have been daunting for people less able than we were.

Yours sincerely,
Rollo and Barbara Kiek. Victoria, Australia.

Mar 2016


Hi Paul,

We recently took the Golden Land cruise - I think the last one for the year. It was absolutely brilliant. We have been in the tourism industry for over 40 years and know how hard it is deliver great product. Well done. Your staff are fantastically trained and especially impressive with their ability and willingness to react to customer needs as and when required. This is one of the hardest service cultures to build in a team. Well done.

I know there is a lot of competition on the river now but the authenticity of your product and the warmth and professionalism with which it is delivered are great points of difference.

All the best
Janet and Alan Collingwood

Nov 2015


Dear Marek

I was not sure who to write to at Pandaw, but I was keen to write to you on behalf of myself and my husband following our cruise on the Katha Pandaw that finished on 8 November in Mandalay.

As you are probably aware, early on the morning of 8 November 2015, our cruise boat became grounded on a sandbank in the Irrawaddy. Although the ship's crew made innumerable attempts to get the boat off the sandbank, we were stuck on the sandbank for around 10 hours. As three of us on the boat needed to get back to Mandalay by that evening in order to get our flights out of Mandalay for our next destination, my husband and I and the third passenger, John, were very pleased with the service and care provided by Pandaw Cruises in ensuring that we were picked up by an Irrawaddy fast river boat that was heading downstream towards Mandalay. The Pandaw also organised for one of the crew to accompany us on the fast boat to ensure that we were looked after and that we were picked up by our taxi to transfer to our respective hotels in Mandalay. We would especially to thank the crew member who looked after us so well on our adventure back to Mandalay.

We were very pleased with the exceptional service proved by the Pandaw Cruises, and we would like to express our thanks to Pandaw, and to the company management, and especially to the crew on-board our boat for the care and kindness shown to us.

We had a wonderful time and many memorable experiences on on Mandalay-Katha-Second Defile cruise, and Harry was a great guide for us. Could you please express our thanks to Harry?

We have just boarded the Laos Mekong this morning and we are looking forward to our next adventure up the Mekong with Pandaw Cruises.

With many thanks and kind regards
Dr Frances Cunningham & Maurice Paul Collis

Oct 2015


Dear Mr Strachan,

My wife and I just returned this morning from our fourth Pandaw trip, this time on the Kalay on the Chindwin.

I can recommend this ship highly - and its crew. When saying farewell, I got our guide to translate for me, to tell them that in English we say "small is beautiful", and so was the Kalay. We were particularly impressed by the Purser, U Win Myo, who was a gem; also one particular crew member who was the exact double of the comedian Michael Macintyre, even to the hairstyle and cheeky grin, albeit a trifle more suntanned. All crew were splendid. They paid me the compliment of calling me "Aba" or "Babar".

My wife wondered whether you, or your wife, might be considering producing a Pandaw Cookbook?

Tim Tawney

Response from Pandaw

Dear Tim

Many thanks for writing to me about your recent river expedition. I am so glad it went well for you.

I have passed on your good wishes to purser, guide and crew who will much appreciate your praise.

Otherwise, many thanks for coming with us and I hope we will see you again on a Pandaw one day.

Good idea for a cook book!

Please do consider supporting The Pandaw Charity, which is registered in the UK. We are now running 12 clinics with a total of 5,000 treatments a month. We are currently raising funds for a new X ray machine for our central clinic at Pagan. You can donate online at:

Unless you have any objections I will post your letter on our Feedback pages so potential travellers can learn from your experiences.

Many thanks for coming with us and I hope we will see you again on a Pandaw one day.

With all regards,
Paul Strachan

Aug 2015


We recently returned from the 7 day, classic Mekong cruise on the RV Mekong Pandaw. We wanted to express our thanks to the company and our deep admiration for the staff on the boat who made it truly superb. The boat was brilliant, the staff first rate and the food stunning.

Saroeung and Sokhom leading the team, Sophorn in the dining room, Head Chef Mr Narith and everyone else were simply excellent. Our son has severe food allergies and they all looked after him very well. Also Sreyhong was wonderful in the time she gave to teaching our daughter origami.

We would (and will) highly recommend travelling with Pandaw and we are already planning our next trip. Many thanks and congratulations on creating something terrific.

Paul Christensen

Dec 2013



We just wanted to let you know that we had the most wonderful time on our 14 day Myanmar 600 mile "adventure" departing Yangon on 3 October.

This was our second Pandaw experience and we just loved it.

The service was perfect and all the crew were so friendly and couldn't do enough for us and our fellow travellers. Thin and Meo looked after us literally from dawn to "lights out" and were just charming. The food is spot on and we loved being able to be eat on the deck rather than in a formal dining room. The Burmese salads at lunch time were a particular highlight. We had a delicious Burmese chicken curry at one meal and the chef was kind enough to give me the recipe.

The shore excursions were very well organised and very interesting. Gigi, our guide, was a font of knowledge and very consultative and made sure we were all happy with the pace and what we were to see and do. I guess this was easy the first week as there were only 9 of us and mostly only 7 or 8 going ashore. It all helped that we all got along and no one was "difficult".

The day were were to disembark, news came through that there had been an incident at a hotel in Yangon involving an explosive device. Some of the passengers were more concerned than others about safety but I think we all appreciated the visit from your Mandalay representative, Dan, who came on board to explain what had happened and to calm any nerves.

Please pass on our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all the crew of the RV Katha Pandaw!

Kind regards

Elizabeth Lane and John McCallum